Central Florida

Flock to a wonderland of birds on tiny Pelican Island

Flock to a wonderland of birds on tiny Pelican Island

The nation’s first wildlife refuge was created by President Teddy Roosevelt to stop plume-hunters from wiping out several species of birds. The birds are back, and spring is a great time to visit. (You’ll need a kayak for a closeup look.)

Desert Inn at Yeehaw Junction

Historic Desert Inn stands tall at Yeehaw Junction

The billboards on the Turnpike are gone, and so are the discount coupons, but the legendary Desert Inn is still kickin’ at Yeehaw Junction.

Peering into the deep blue of "The Crack," a spring that is the origin of Baird Creek, a tributary of the Chassahowitzca.

The Chaz: Springs & wildlife make this river a special kayak trail

Kayaking the Chaz on the central Gulf Coast takes you over turquoise springs, down twisty creeks, and you might just see a manatee, otter or bald eagle. This is one of Florida’s premier kayaking rivers.

It’s firefly season at Blue Springs. Wait, what’s firefly season?

It’s firefly season at Blue Springs. Wait, what’s firefly season?

Blue Spring State Park, home to manatees in the winter and a favorite place for a swim in bracing spring water in the summer, will allow visitors to stay after closing during firefly season through early April. If that took you by surprise, you’re with me. But there is a firefly season and Blue Spring, located 35 miles north of Orlando in Orange City, is firefly central.

Brad Paisley

Florida Strawberry Festival: March 1-11, 2018 in Plant City

Florida Rambler’s guide to the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Entertainment line-up, places to stay, places to eat, places to camp and things to do nearby. This year’s headliners include Brad Paisley, Reba MacEntire, Charley Pride, Jerry Lee Lewis, Josh Turner, Trace Adkins, Earth Wind and Fire, and many more.

The historic Donnelly House in Mount Dora.

Mount Dora: Eight big weekend festivals plus year-round charm

Mount Dora is a historic town that has figured out how to keep people returning year after year — with events like this: Jan 19-21 Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza and the Feb. 3-4 Annual Arts Festival

Trail along Tiger Creek Preserve

Exploring the Lake Wales Ridge: Central ‘highlands’ with old-fashioned flavor

Central Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge is made for exploration. It offers rolling hills, forests, streams, quaint small towns with lots of places for hiking, kayaking and camping.

January 2018 manatee festivals: Orange City and Crystal River

January 2018 manatee festivals: Orange City and Crystal River

Two large manatee festivals celebrate Florida’s beloved manatee every January – one in Orange City and one in Crystal River. These two locations are probably the best places in the state to see manatees well and in great numbers. First up: Jan. 13 and 14 in Crystal River.